Suarez Circus polar bears saved at last

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2002:

YABUCOA, Puerto Rico–Fifteen months after the Suarez
Brothers Circus of Guadalajara, Mexico, brought seven polar bears
to Puerto Rico, and eight months after confiscating one bear named
Alaska, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on
November 4 took the remaining six bears into custody, charged the
circus with five violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and initiated
seizure proceedings.


At least three of the bears are believed to have been
captured with their mother in Churchill, Manitoba, in the early
1990s, after they invaded the town to look for food. Another bear
was reputedly born in Germany in 1996. The origin of the other three
bears is unclear.
. Manitoba wildlife officials reportedly sold the three
captured cubs to the Ruhr Zoo in West Germany. Somehow all seven
bears were on tour together with German trainer Alfred Gafner as part
of the Suarez Brothers Circus by the end of 1996.
Video showing them sweltering in the Mexican heat helped
influence the Manitoba government to set stricter standards for
exporting polar bears in 1998, and to strengthen the rules again in
2001, but for years no one could do much for the so-called “Suarez
Seven.”
PETA and the Humane Society of Puerto Rico began demanding
that the polar bears be seized almost as soon as the Suarez Brothers
Circus obtained permits to bring them to Puerto Rico–and under USDA
jurisdiction–in May 2001. The bears reportedly arrived in August
2001.
By November 2001, 16 U.S. Senators and 55 members of Congess
had signed a petition asking the USDA to confiscate the bears, but
local cruelty charges brought against circus owner Raoul Suarez
failed in February 2002.
Despite that, the USDA seized Alaska in February 1997, due
to alleged poor physical condition, and sent her to the Baltimore
Zoo.
The Suarez Brothers Circus then tried to take the remaining
bears to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The USDA refused to let the bears
go, but was unable to intervene further until their holding
conditions deteriorated.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is to take three of the
last six bears, the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, is
to take two, and the final bear will go to the Detroit Zoo, whose
director, Ron Kagan, and chief veterinarian, Ann Duncan, were
prominent in the long struggle to get the bears out of the circus and
the tropical climate.

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